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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Twelve Études, Op. 10 (1829-33):
Étude in C major, ‘Arpeggio’ Op. 10/1 [2:16]
Étude in A minor, Op. 10/2 [1:29]
Étude in E major, ‘Tristesse’ Op. 10/3 [4:13]
Étude in C sharp minor, Op. 10/4 [2:01]
Étude in G flat major, ‘Black Key’ Op. 10/5 [1:46]
Étude in E flat minor, Op. 10/6 [3:19]
Étude in C major, Op. 10/7 [1:33]
Étude in F major, Op. 10/8 [2:32]
Étude in F minor, Op. 10/9 [2:02]
Étude in A flat major, Op. 10/10 [2:20]
Étude in E flat major, Op. 10/11 [2:42]
Étude in C minor, ‘Revolutionary’ Op. 10/12 [3:04]
Four Ballades:
Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23 (1835-36) [9:35]
Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op. 38 (1836-39) [7:08]
Ballade No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47 (1841) [7:35]
Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52 (1842-43) [10:53]
Hugues DUFOURT (b. 1943)
La ligne gravissant la chute - Hommage à Chopin (2008) [9:43]
Nima Sarkechik (piano)
rec. 28 January-1 February 2008, Studio de Meudon, France. DDD


Experience Classicsonline

This predominantly Chopin collection played by young pianist Nima Sarkechik also includes a recently commissioned score by Hugues Dufourt. 

Sarkechik resides in France and his biographical details highlight his Iranian heritage. In 1996 he attended the Conservatoire National de Région de Grenoble in the class of Christian Bernard. From 2001 he studied with Georges Pludermacher and François Frédéric Guy at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris. He was awarded the scholarship of the Fondation Natexis-Banque Populaire, the Prix Drouet-Bourgeois 2004 and won the first prize in the 2004 International Piano Competition of ‘Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem’ in Rabat, Morocco. 

Chopin composed his first set of 12 Études, Op. 10 between 1829 and 1833 announcing that with these concert studies he had developed a radical new form of piano literature. Dedicated to Liszt and published as a set in 1833 the Op. 10 set did not carry any descriptive titles. Chopin remained discreet about any possible programmatic inspiration. The titles ‘Arpeggio’, ‘Tristesse’, ‘Black Key’ and ‘Revolutionary’ were appended later. 

In the Études I found especially pleasing Sarkechik’s interpretation of the Étude in C major, Op. 10/1 with the right hand arpeggios sounding like lapping waves. The playing of the fiendishly difficult Étude in A minor, Op. 10/2 has a scampering character and I was impressed by the high spirits of the inventive ‘Black KeyÉtude in G flat major, Op. 10/5. Sarkechik is confident with the serious and nervous temperament of the Étude in E flat minor, Op. 10/6. With the repeated notes and arpeggios of the tempestuous Étude in F minor, Op. 10/9 the soloist communicates a mood of poised seriousness. Interpreted with assurance the strong feel of the parlour expressed by the Étude in A flat major, Op. 10/10 does not reflect its technical difficulties. The final work of the set is the appropriately titled ‘RevolutionaryÉtude in C minor, Op. 10/12. Chopin was inspired to write the C minor piece by the invasion of Warsaw by the Russian army and Sarkechik impresses with a fluid reading of considerable vitality. 

Nima Sarkechik is up against extremely strong competition. There are magnificent sets from Murray Perahia on Sony Classical and Maurizio Pollini on Deutsche Grammophon that rank amongst their finest recordings. In the complete Études Perahia is highly compelling, displaying remarkable pianism with a broad expressive range. The digital sound on Perahia’s Sony recording benefits from outstanding presence and clarity. Pollinis magisterial accounts are brilliantly characterised totally engaging the listener. I found the admirable analogue sonics for Pollini on Deutsche Grammophon of high quality being especially cool and clear - see recording details of the Études notes below.

The Four Ballades, composed 1835-43 are cornerstones of the piano repertoire and mark Chopin’s maturity as a composer. He invented the Ballade form, containing music of a highly illustrative quality and communicating a wide variety of feelings and emotions yet able to stand alone as masterful pure music.

The Ballade No. 1 is accorded a broad tonal palette that especially evoked feelings of passion, energy, tenderness and enthusiasm. Sarkechik’s playing of the Ballade No. 2 splendidly contrasts feather-light beauty with tempestuous energy. In the Ballade No. 3 the soloist evokes the innocence and security of an infant’s nursery contrasted with a temperamental splendour. In this interpretation of the Ballade No. 4 Sarkechik varies the mood from a dance-like quality to that of irresistible introspection. 

Recordings of Chopin’s Four Ballades are plentiful in the catalogues and there are several rival versions of exceptional quality. My longstanding benchmark is the magnificent cycle from Arthur Rubinstein that he made in 1959 at New York City. Rubinstein’s interpretations are truly magical and it is difficult to imagine hearing playing of these scores containing more poetry and expression. 

Murray Perahia greatly excels in Chopin’s Four Ballades which he recorded in 1994 in Switzerland for Sony Classical. I admire his expansive lyricism that combines power with sensitivity in what is arguably the finest recital that Perahia recorded. In the Ballades I also hold a high regard for Pollini’s 1999 Munich performances of passion, vitality and drama for Deutsche Grammophon - see recording details of the Ballades in the notes below.

Lyon-born composer Hugues Dufourt was commissioned to write his single movement piano score La ligne gravissant la chute - Hommage à Chopin by the Printemps des Arts de Monte Carlo. The score was due to be premièred as part of a Chopin programme in April 2008 titled La nuit du piano (Night of piano) with recital performances from Caroline Sageman, Alexandre Tharaud and Nima Sarkechik at the Salle Empire, Monte Carlo. It seems that at the Salle Empire recital Sarkechik played the same programme as that contained on this disc.

Nima Sarkechik impresses in this programme of Chopin and Dufourt for Zig Zag Territoires but in the Chopin the competition from the established names is fierce. Sarkechik shows considerable potential and is certainly name to listen out for. He joins Simon Trpčeski and Ingrid Fliter as talented young Chopin interpreters carving out promising reputations for themselves. This is a well performed and splendidly recorded disc; pity about spelling Nima Sarkechik’s name incorrectly throughout the booklet.

Michael Cookson

Chopin, 12 Études, Op. 10 and 12 Études, Op. 25:
a) Murray Perahia recorded 12 Études, Op. 10 and 12 Études, Op. 25 in 2001 in London for Sony Classical SK 61885.
b) Maurizio Pollini recorded 12 Études, Op. 10 and 12 Études, Op. 25 in 1972 at Munich for Deutsche Grammophon 413 794-2.

Chopin, 4 Ballades:
a) Arthur Rubinstein recorded 4 Ballades in 1959 at New York City for RCA Victor Red Seal Living Stereo SACD 82876-61396-2 RE1 (c/w 4 Scherzos).
Also on RCA Victor Red Seal 09026 63045-2 (c/w 4 Scherzos and Tarantelle).
b) Murray Perahia recorded 4 Ballades in 1994 in Switzerland for Sony Classical SK 64399 (c/w selection of Nocturnes; Etudes; Mazurkas etc).
c) Maurizio Pollini recorded 4 Ballades in 1999 at Munich for Deutsche Grammophon 289 459 683-2 (Prelude, Op. 45 and Fantaisie, Op. 49).



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